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Friday, February 27, 2015

CIO: Cuddle It Out

My youngest is going through a phase (or so I hope) that involves quite a bit of crying and screaming at bedtime. Despite my best efforts to determine the source of his present distress, I've yet to figure out exactly why Going to Bed has suddenly turned our house into a real-life version of Hogsmeade's Shrieking Shack. He hasn't quite reached the age at which he can fully articulate his feelings (one of the greatest parental frustrations of raising a toddler), and I’m not sure if he’s scared, or just craving attention, or nervous about something. (His latest origins of psychological malaise include loose threads, the recent discovery of veins in his wrist, and the visual and mental awareness of lines on his palm; he’s actually been walking around with his sleeve pulled over his hand so as not to see these. It’s endearing, but makes for a lot of post-meal laundry. I have a feeling that if he actually left his palm exposed long enough to have some quack read those lines, she’d see a teenage glovephile.)

"Grim" must be an acronym for "Gloves Required Immediately, Mama."
[via Giphy]

This has been going on for roughly a week now, and there was one night in particular a few days ago when I could just feel my patience running thinner than Dobby’s hair:

Gosh, this post is gonna sound like gibberish
to anyone that’s not a fellow Potterhead.

[via Giphy]
.
Anyway, back to the Muggle topic at (fear-mongeringly creased) hand. Here’s the thing: I am not a fan of “cry it out.” It’s just not for me. I’m sure there are people out there who think that makes me “weak” or something. I’m not dissing parents who employ that method, nor am I attempting to spark some sort of debate about it. I’m well aware that there are probably certain situations that necessitate some unwiped tears. I was blessed not to have colicky babies, so I can’t speak from the perspective of someone who does. However, I do feel I should at least explain the rationale behind my personal philosophy.

This is how I look at it: I don’t like going to bed worried, anxious, or afraid. It doesn’t matter if the issue causing me personal anguish seems silly or inconsequential to other people. If it’s keeping me up at night, then it’s a big freaking deal, even if I’m crying over a load of unwashed laundry or cupcake-eater’s-remorse. I don’t like lying in bed with a layer of unease between myself and my comforter (too bad it's not nomenclaturally relevant to one's emotional well-being), or falling asleep upset. I doubt anyone does. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the platitude "Don’t go to bed angry" dished out as "sound advice" for married couples (speaking of "sound" advice: I could really use some regarding my kids...you know...to stop the screaming). Why should it be any different for our children? It shouldn't matter what a child’s source of fear or apprehension is; the thing that matters is that it’s causing him obvious emotional distress. I don’t enjoy crying myself to sleep, and I don’t think my kids should have to endure something like that simply because it would make my life a little easier.

But, yes, I’m human, and sometimes it’s hard to "walk the walk," especially when I’m so tired that the best I can even hope to do is "shuffle the walk"—in my worn down house slippers. So when my typically-happy-toddler once again started wailing at the moment of contact with his bed that particularly exhausting evening, my immediate reaction was annoyance. I had a headache, I’d gotten about five hours of sleep the previous night, and both my boys were suffering from a bad case of cabin fever. (Texas had endured a rare ice storm, which put a temporary hold on our nearly daily playground visits. It seriously looked as though Elsa had…umm…"let it go"—as in, a euphemism for s**t her brains out—everywhere.)

No, Elsa! Hold it in! Hold it in! Quick, someone get the Imodium!
[via Giphy]

So I left the room, shutting the door behind me, and resolved myself to just "giving him five minutes" so I could sit down and watch American Idol (a slightly embarrassing guilty pleasure). I lasted about two, but when his little wails started to drown out the particularly shrieky Idol contestant on the TV, I couldn't—in good conscience—allow them to continue. So I turned off the boob tube, returned to his room, swept his trembling, delicate body up into my arms—making sure to grab "Zih" (his beloved blankie) as well— and made my way over to the glider.

The hallowed "Zih" of which I speak. Basically a third arm. Luckily it has no palm lines, but it does sport the occasional loose thread in need of yanking. 

Once I had him in my arms—his tiny heart beating rapidly into my own, my lips softly brushing his freshly buzzed scalp—all of my irritation melted away. His response to my touch was immediate, and as soon as we sat down in the glider, he curled his lanky little body into mine, rested his head against my chest, and started drifting off to sleep. In the quiet of his slumber, I started to reminisce about my pregnancy. I recalled occasionally getting frustrated when he and his brother were particularly rambunctious fetuses (Who'da thunk, right? I mean, they're so low-key now), and I’d get a kick in the ribs or punch in the bladder as I was trying to sleep. Of course, once the boys were born, I found myself missing the unique sensation of them moving inside of me, of breathing the same breath, pumping the same blood, sharing life itself. Sitting in that chair with this tiny human beingthis living fragment of myselfour breaths and heartbeats falling back in sync, I realized that these are moments to treasure, not dread.

Because there will come a day when he won’t permit me moments like this.

A day when being cradled in my arms can’t make all his problems go away.

A day when I’ll no longer know the gentle pressure of his tiny, familiar fingers pressed into my back.

A day when his fingers aren't so tiny.

Or familiar.

A day when his perfectly shaved little head no longer fits in the crook between my cheek and shoulder.

A day when we can’t both fit comfortably in a rocking chair.

A day when his limbs are too long for me to fold up like a secret love letter, enveloped in my arms.

There will come a day when I’m not the girl he wants to cuddle with.

A day when he goes to bed upset—over a bully at school, or a girl problem, or (gasp!) the discovery of more bodily creases—and he’ll push me away when I try to comfort him.

A day when I have to traverse miles, not a hallway, to get to him.

A day when I’m the one up at night, plagued with worry, because he’s not around.

A day when he may be the one wiping away my tears.

*************************************************************************************************************

So for now, I will gladly sacrifice my evening TV time to rock my child to sleep.

There are things in life you can’t DVR. 


All images, excepting the two of my kid, courtesy of giphy.com (Lord help him if you can't tell the difference).

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

You Are Not a Bad Mom

Some of you may have read my post a few weeks ago entitled “One of Those Days,” in which I described a day of noteworthy rowdiness at Wassel Bros. & Co. Headquarters. Well, when you’re trying your best to raise a pair of exceptionally active toddlers, sometimes every day can seem like “one of those days.” Really, we could just nix the demonstrative pronoun all together. Every day presents unique challenges, but I think the most difficult ones to get through are the ones that make you question your competency as a mother. And today was definitely one of those—er, well, let’s just say it was particularly tough.

Trying my best not to sound so cheesy I belong in this placeI can genuinely say that I love spending time with my boys. They are sweet (when they want to be), entertaining, hysterical, and nuttier than a squirrel’s bowel movement. Most of the time we spend together stems not from some sense of motherly obligation, but rather a sincere desire to simply hang out with a couple of groovy little dudes. I cherish the opportunity to witness (and sometimes take part in) all of their crazy antics. Do note that I said most of the time. I’m human. And I've always considered myself a bit of a loner/introvert type. Thus, every now and then, I need some alone time to decompress a bit, away from the fraternal madness.

Such was the case today. I was at the computer, editing some photos, while the boys kept each other busy (read: terrorized one another) in their toy room. I typically keep the door open and place a baby gate in the doorway so I can periodically glance in their general direction to make sure no one’s at risk of decapitation via toy pizza cutter, or of becoming a total blockhead (like, literally, getting repeatedly pelted in the skull with wooden blocks). They were getting along exceptionally splendidly this morning, and I had the luxury of enjoying my personal time in a few rare moments of peace and quiet.

In retrospect, that should have tipped me off. My boys are not quiet. Unless they’re asleep. Even then, they've been known to pound the wall with their diminutive—yet, surprisingly strong—little feet during the night, making our house sound like some sleazy, hourly-rate motel. The only other scenarios I can recall that have involved their voluntary silence is when they’ve been up to something.

Bingo.

When I realized how abnormally quiet it had been for the past few minutes, I whipped my head around to the toy room doorway. Sure enough, the gate had been knocked down as definitively as the Berlin Wall, and the boys were nowhere to be seen.

Just to be clear, those are not my kids. They wouldn't have the 
attention span to make a music video.
[youtube.com]

After checking their room (to which they often flee, entertaining themselves with the recently-discovered “on/off” capability of their sound machine—a phenomenon which, judging by their hysterical laughter, is The Most Hilarious Thing in The World), I made my way toward the master bedroom and heard the telltale sound of Stuff Being Strewn Everywhere. Sure enough, they were in the bathroom, taking turns hiding in the cupboard beneath the sink, building towers with toilet paper rolls, and perplexedly studying my feminine hygiene products, probably wondering why Mama’s “diapers” are so much thinner than theirs—and lamenting the absence of Sesame Street characters on them.

Although I certainly wasn't looking forward to reconfiguring our bathroom cabinets and drawers, I had to laugh. I mean, Trystan had also found some of my sweat bands and had miraculously managed to pull them over his abnormally large head, leaving them draped around his neck, creating the illusion that he was wearing some sort of technicolor turtleneck. So I got out my camera, snapped a few photos, corralled them back in the toy room, and got to work cleaning everything up.

That’s when I found a small travel-size bottle of Advil—lid popped off—and a single orange pill nearby on the floor. There have been few moments in my life when I've been so gripped by fear that my limbs literally will not allow me to move. However, when I saw that little bottle, I felt like the air around me had undergone some sort of warped, sticky condensation process. It was like trying to move in a giant bottle of rubber cement. When I finally snapped out of it, I ran back to the boys and asked if they’d eaten anything out of the bottle. When they just stared at me, I asked—a bit more frantically—if they’d eaten any “candy” in the bathroom. This, of course, only led to them demanding candy. Even though I thought it unlikely that they’d ingested anything (they were acting normally—for them—and I couldn't imagine them willingly “eating” something as bitter as Advil) I called my husband, who told me to call 911, and within ten minutes there was an ambulance parked in front of the house and paramedics asking my boys to say “Aaaahhhhhhh” while shining flashlights in their mouths (which they also tried to eat, not exactly mollifying my fear that they’d put something they shouldn't have in their mouths). All the while, I was trying to just keep it together, as my insides felt like they were wrapping themselves around my heart, crushing it with a lethal concoction of fear and guilt.

The paramedics agreed with me that the boys hadn't appeared to have swallowed any of the medicine, but said that they would be more than happy to take them to the hospital to get checked out. By that time, my husband had gotten home, and we opted to drive them to the ER ourselves. I won’t drone on about how long we had to wait in the waiting room (aptly named, unlike the ironic term patient), how much they squirmed and protested while getting their vitals checked, or how rowdy they were by the end of the visit. To make a long story short (a technique I wish we could have applied to our visit), the boys were their typical mischievous selves the entire time—playing leapfrog on the waiting room chairs and foraging through drawers of medical equipment), everything checked out fine, and we were home with ample time for them to destroy the kitchen while I picked up approximately 10,000 bobby pins off the bathroom floor.

Our time in the ER was an emotional whirlwind for me. Although I was beyond relieved that the boys were okay, I was also—understandably—ashamed, angry, and guilt-ridden about what happened (or could have happened) under my watch. Perhaps it would be more felicitous to say under the lack of my watch. I am their mom. I am their protector. Someone who is supposed to keep them safe. I felt as though I’d let them down, and the well-intentioned “It could have been a lot worse” remarks from the hospital workers were a far cry from consolation. I knew that things could have been worse, and that’s exactly why I was so distraught. My boys are my world, and I’d nearly allowed our orbital path to be severed by a moment of neglect. As if the thought of losing them wasn't painful enough to fathom, I was also dealing with the harrowing certainty that it would have been my fault.

While we were waiting to be discharged, I had called my mom in tears, explaining the situation and telling her how irresponsible I’d been. She cut off my rambling and said firmly, “Samantha. You are not a bad mom.” My mom—who I have always looked up to as the quintessential mother, who I aspire to be like—then proceeded to tell me multiple stories of her own “scares” when we were growing up, including multiple broken bones I’d had in my childhood. Her words meant more to me than I can linguistically express, and that’s saying something. I have a propensity for verbosity, in case you haven’t noticed by now.

I’m a mom. It is—now—how I primarily define myself. But I’m also human, and like any human being in any line of work, I make mistakes. Doctors misdiagnose. Writers make typos. Basketball players miss free throws. Lawyers stutter in court. Baby gate manufacturers don’t account for double-teaming toddlers in their designs. Luke Skywalker got his hand cut off. We all make mistakes. That doesn’t make us “bad” at what we do; it makes us human beings. I think the majority of moms have moments when they feel like “bad moms,” even though they know in their hearts that they would do anything, give anything, be anything, for their children. God didn't make us perfect, and He allows us to make mistakes so that we can grow from them. I think, deep down, I know this—that all moms know this—but it still helps to hear it from someone else every now and then.

So to any of the moms out there reading this: You are a damn good mom.

I am a damn good mom. With two incredibly strong, determined toddlers. And a crappy baby gate.




Sunday, February 22, 2015

Deciding to Heal

February 22-28th is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Please check it out at http://nedawareness.org/.

This is something that is extremely difficult to talk about, and—in fact—I’m writing things here that I’m fairly certain even my husband will be finding out for the first time. I composed this a while ago and have, on multiple occasions, allowed my mouse to intermittently hover over the “publish” button before ultimately deciding that I wasn't ready. But I’m not sure if I’ll ever really be “ready,” and, given what this week honors, I can’t think of a better time to just put it out there.

Note: I am totally aware that eating disorders exist among both men and women, but for the sake of conciseness in this post, I’ll be using feminine pronouns, mostly because I’m speaking from my own experience, and that makes the most sense to me.

So here goes: I suffered from an eating disorder through much of high school and nearly all of college. I’m not talking about a trendy, misguided, “I’d-look-so-hot-with-a-thigh-gap” whim, I mean a full-blown, can’t-function-like-a-regular-human-being eating disorder. A true eating disorder (ED) is not a fad. It’s not something to make light of with “thinspo” and “pro-ana” posts on social media sites. It’s not something you joke about among friends with glib remarks like, “Oh, I’m rockin’ a bikini at the beach tomorrow, so I guess I won’t be eating today.” It is an all-consuming, life-threatening disease. It's the kind of thing that makes you forget who you are, where you are, why you are. The kind of thing that rouses you in the middle of the night and compels your barely functioning body to shuffle through your dorm hallways, stopping at the nearest communal trash can to scavenge for food. Because your mind and body are no longer on the same team, and your mind has finally yielded to your body's survival instincts. Because you know that if you keep any food in your own room, you’ll end up eating it. And you aren't allowed to eat. 

It's the kind of thing that starves you until you're forced to consume your own identity for sustenance. The kind of thing that leaves you weak and emaciated, that strips you of your ability to runthe one thing your body could do that made you feel strong, alive, and in control. The kind of thing that dictates how you spend every second of every minute of every hour of every day, and leaves you unable to even stand on your own two feet, let alone run on them. 

It's the kind of thing that isolates you from friends and family, because you forgo any social function that will involve food. The kind of thing that leaves you scraping the bottom of your piggy bank for gas money, because you spend your entire summer working out instead of getting a job. Scratch that: Working out is your job, and you do it for eight to ten hours a day. The payment you receive is another rib showing, or your clavicle protruding perhaps another millimeter. 

It's the kind of thing you look back on, years later, with one of your beautiful, vibrant children bouncing up and down on your non-skeletal thighs, and think, My God, the things I could have missed.

A lot of times, you hear that an eating disorder isn't about eating. It’s about control. It’s about finding the one aspect in your life that you can control, when everything else seems to have spiraled out of it. That’s part of the reason it’s so difficult for an eating disorder victim to open up about her condition: She has to admit that she’s lost charge of her own life—ironic, considering a pathological need to be self-sufficient is often what prompts the unhealthy behavior in the first place. I think this obsession with control is difficult for people to understand when they’re not going through it themselves. Without divulging too much detail, I will say that I had a lot of anxieties, and traumas that I hadn't worked through, and all of those suppressed emotions eventually manifested themselves in the power-game known as an eating disorder. I wanted to feel empty, physically and emotionally, so that’s what I strove for. I wanted to disappear instead of confront my emotions, so I slowly wasted away. Eating disorders are not about looking good in a bikini. They are not about vanity. If so, you wouldn't see most eating disorder victims dressed in baggy sweats, hair pulled back, face often pale and void of even a single swipe of makeup. If it was about having a “good body,” they’d want to show off their “accomplishments” to the rest of the world. Instead they hide.

I hid. I hid for a long time. At times, I still hide. Not in the manipulative, secretive ways that I used to, but I hide from the past, and the emotions that it brings up. I don’t want to write my entire story on here, partly because—to be honest—I don’t think I’m ready to relive all of it quite yet. There is a lot of guilt that comes with recovering from an eating disorder, as you wake from the fog of starvation and realize just how much you've hurt the people around you. It’s the kind of thing that can never be completely eradicated from your conscience, no matter how much you apologize, sort of like some of the destructive mindsets of the disorder itself. For years, I wouldn't even admit that I had a problem, in part because I honestly didn't think I did. That’s what an ED does to you. It warps your sense of reality. It convinces you that the things you’re doing are normal, and that no one else understands that. Suffice it to say, I hit my worst point my sophomore year of college, dropping well below the “unhealthy” BMI range, and using my protruding shoulder blades to shrug off the concerns of all the counselors, coaches, and PEOPLE WHO LOVED ME that were trying to help.

And there were plenty of them. But when I was at my worst, I was irrational. I truly believed that the people around me were overreacting. Recovery wasn't something that anybody could force on me; it was something I had to reach for myself. And I know it’s a clichĂ©, but sometimes you truly do have to hit “rock bottom” before you can climb your way to the top. It's brutal, but the gratifying thing about it is that once you reach the summit, you can stand firmly on the knowledge that you have the tools, strength, and willpower to pull yourself out of the dark.

When my ED started to become visibly noticeable to others during sophomore year of college, I had no choice but to start seeing doctors and counselors, at least if I hoped to remain at school and be a part of the cross-country team (incredible ladies who, even at my absolute worst, stuck by my side; I can't imagine being surrounded by a stronger group of women). So I went through the motions. Counselors. Weekly weigh-ins* (see Note, at end of post). I said what I thought they wanted to hear, nodded at the “coping mechanisms” they suggested, and told them I knew I had a problem, all the while anxiously glancing at the clock and calculating how much time I had left before the campus gym closed. I did have one counselor who eventually helped guide me down the road of recovery. However, I had to be the one to build that road first, and, in order to do so, I needed building materials. The first one I stumbled across was fear.

There was a gym I worked out at regularly that had this tiny little cardio room in the basement, where I felt I could work out for hours, away from the prying eyes of people who might recognize me. I was there late one Friday night, trying to fit in my daily requirement of exercise before heading back to my dorm room, eating a 100-calorie-snack-bag of fat-free popcorn and a couple packets of Splenda, and passing out for the night. I don’t know what was different about that night, but at some point, I looked around that secluded little room and realized just how alone I was. While probably almost every other college kid was out spending her Friday night with friends, I was slogging along on an elliptical in a deserted basement. All of a sudden, I felt a pain in my chest. It may have been real, it may have been imagined. It may have been a panic attack or something in my heart metaphorically breaking over how pathetic I was. And I thought, Oh my gosh, I am going to die. This is how I’m going to die. Alone in a basement. And they won’t find me until they close for the night. Because no one else is here. Because no one else is this pitiful. I hadn't just isolated myself in the gym. I had ISOLATED MYSELF. PERIOD. So I stopped mid-elliptical-stride, got in my car, and drove home to my mom. I wasn't ready to tell her what had happenedabout my fear, my terrifying epiphanybut I took solace in the fact that I was under the same roof as someone who loved me unconditionally. Sometimes, the best thing you can be for someone with an ED is simply there.

My recovery was gradual. I didn't just go from 10 hours of exercising a day to none. It was seriously like weaning a drug addict: I had to go slowly, or the withdrawal would become too much and kick me right back to where I started. I began paying attention at my counseling sessions and integrating the tools the counselor gave me to deal with my anxiety. I opened up about issues in my past that I hadn't even realized were feeding my ED (poor choice of words). I slowly realized that it was okay to embrace all of the love and support that people who cared about me had been throwing my way.

This post isn't for the people living with eating disorders, although I would be beyond thrilled if it does manage to help a fellow victim. This is for their loved onesthe people who feel helpless, neglected, terrified. I can’t imagine what it’s like to watch someone you love slowly, miserably kill herself, and not be able to do anything about it. And I pray I never have to. I want to tell you not to give up, and not to feel like you’re failing. I had the best support team imaginable in my corner—my best friend (my mom), my remarkably persistent and compassionate cross-country coach, my at-the-time fiancĂ© (now husband), and countless teammates and family members—but all of the support in the world didn't matter until I was ready to make a change. And once I took that step, I welcomed all of it.  But that first step had to be mine.  No crutches. Some of the strongest roots of an eating disorder are the needs to be independent and to take ownership of your body; it only makes sense that growing out of one necessitates the same. At least in my experience. You can't always move the roots, but you can feed them a different way of thinking, so that they grow into something beautiful instead of a parasitic weed. 

So please be patient.  Of course keep trying to break through—how could you not?—but don’t beat yourself up if you feel like you’re not getting anywhere, like you’re not helping. Because you are. You are helping by being there. By caring. By loving. You are a safety net. Hang in there, because one day that person you love will jump—or be pushed—toward recovery, and she’ll need you around to catch her.

And to those of you who were there to catch me (you know who you are): Thank you. Everything I am, everything I have, I owe to you. In the ultimate Trust Fall, the loving web of your interlaced hands lifted me back up to safety.

I was lucky. I didn't suffer any permanent damage from my ED, except for a brief period of anemia that sidelined me for part of my junior cross-country season. My friends and family didn't give up on me, even when I pushed them away. I managed to keep my grades up, didn't have to drop out of school, and—miraculously—never ended up in the hospital. But I very well could have, and I thank God every day for blessing me with the opportunity to build the life I have now.

I’m still healing. I don’t think you ever really stop. When I eat in front of people, I sometimes feel like they’re scrutinizing my plate, trying to determine if I’m eating “enough.” I can get self-conscious ordering at a restaurant for fear that the waiter or waitress is judging my choices. At family gatherings, I sometimes feel like people are pushing seconds on me. Maybe they are. Or maybe I’m just paranoid because of past experiences. Occasionally, I snap irrationally at my husband when he offers to watch our kids so I can sit down, relax, and eat lunch, because a part of me is still conditioned to the idea that everyone I know is constantly trying to make me eat. I still have a lot of the old ED feelings, but I've learned to deal with them. We can’t control how we feel, but we can control how we react to those feelings. And I've learned that isolating yourself is counterproductive to healing. I don’t want to be alone.

I’m writing this not only to bring awareness to the issue and to support people who know someone with an ED, but also to repave my own road to recovery. I’m sure anyone who knew me when I was at my worst would tell you that I had an ED, but I wouldn't have. Public acknowledgement is a big step. I’d like this post to be the proverbial nail in the coffin that my ED is resting in, and I’d like to bury it for good. I apologize if it seems at all disjointed, as I had to compose it in pieces, much like the manner in which I had to put myself back together during my recovery. I needed to take moments to pause, reflect, and cry. But that’s okay. Tears can be healing, and we can’t truly move on from the past until we acknowledge it.

And now? I intend to just keep moving forward, bringing the people I love most along for the ride:

After completing my first post-baby marathon, one day before the boys turned 9 months.

Post half-marathon PR. My greatest cheerleaders, and my reason to keep going.

Post Snickers Marathon <3 Candy bars don't scare me anymore. 

After the Army Shadow Ten Miler in Fort Hood.
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*A Note on Numbers: Please, do not enforce or encourage “mandatory weigh-ins.” I can tell you from experience that this is one of the most counterproductive things you can do for someone with an eating disorder. When I suffered from mine, everything was a numbers game. How many hours could I work out in a day? How few calories could I survive on? How low could I get the scale to read?  Getting below 100, then 95, then 90; it never stops. When I was forced to undergo “weekly weigh-ins,” I responded in one of two ways: I upped my workout regimen and restricted my intake further so I wouldn't be freaked out by any rise on the scale; or, I got so nervous that a low number would result in further treatment or a hospitalization (my worst fear, because then I wouldn't be allowed to work out) that I dealt with the anxiety the only way I knew how—exercise. So you can see that both reactions led to the same response: digging myself deeper into my eating disorder. To this day, I don’t look at the scale when I have to step on it at the doctor’s office. I don’t know how much I weigh, and I don’t want to know. I tell myself it’s because I don’t care, but I think it’s really because I don’t want to care. Putting a recovered (or recovering) eating disorder patient on a scale is like handing a shot glass to an alcoholic. Unless absolutely critical, I think weigh-ins are a bad idea. If they absolutely have to happen, I recommend they be done blind.



Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Relative Motion

Unfortunately, I think that poetry is becoming an increasingly less appreciated art form, but it is something that I still enjoy quite a bit, so I'll likely be posting the occasional poem. For some reason, while the boys were eating breakfast this morning, I was struck by just how quickly they're growing up. Maybe it was something in the way Trystan said "Mo nana pee" ("More banana please," not a reference to a urinating Grandma named "Mo"). Anyway, it got me thinking about how watching your kids grow up is rife with conflicting emotions. Pride and nostalgia. Love and a little sadness. I was reminded of this poem I wrote a while ago, inspired by one of our trips to the playground when we still lived in GA. Occasionally, I'd ask my husband to hang back with one of the boys so that I could get some alternating one-on-one time with each of them. I'd often bring Cameron (my camera...yes, we name lots of inanimate objects in this family) along, hoping to capture some of the moments I knew I'd treasure most from their childhood, freezing them in time in order to turn memories into something tangible. That is exactly what the picture below is to me--a memory I can hold close to my heart, both physically and emotionally. This is the magic of photography, another passion of mine. It is so amazing to see the world through the unadulterated mind of a child, to whom such simple experiences seem like The Greatest Things in The World. I am so blessed to be able to share these moments with my boys, and I wouldn't trade them for anything. There will come a day when going to the playground no longer fills them with ebullient anticipation, when being pushed on a swing is "boring," when hanging out with Mama is kind of lame. So when people wonder aloud how I "put up" with toddlers all day, my answer is simple: because they still allow me to.

Relative Motion

He swings blithely.
Vitality, sunlight, and the curved
black vinyl warm
his cheeks, anointing
his flesh with the beaded blush
of youthful wonder. He is lifted
to the sky, suspended
for an immaculate moment
in a pocket of atmosphere and giggles

before gravity
pulls him back towards earth.
He soars over the world
and sees it with wide eyes.

The wind blows
his white-blonde hair heavenward,
tufting it about his head
like a halo of dandelion seeds,
engulfing him in a downy
cloud of hopes, wishes,
promises. He pulls
me with him,
his momentum infectious.

His knuckles are white
and tight as clenched teeth,
grasped around braided metal.
Soft palms stifle
the groans of rusted iron, fingers
pressed into the concavity of steel
loops. Overhead,
birds chirp, echoing
sounds of unadulterated freedom.

And with each oscillation,
the distance between our hearts
opens and closes,
opens and closes,
opens and closes.

He is a pendulum—
a poignant reminder
of life’s brevity.

And is it the wind, or time, or
my hand
that drives him forward,
into the intangible?

And when the motion
finally slows—just enough
for him to recollect my presence,
and reach out to me—
is it only my imagination,
or is the boy I lift
in my arms clinging
to me a little less tightly
than the one I put in
moments ago?



Sunday, February 15, 2015

Twas the Morning Before...Well...Pretty Much Every Other Morning

A Parody of Clement Clarke Moore’s beloved The Night Before Christmas
Written, in solidarity, for exhausted Mamas everywhere.

'Twas a day ordinary; nothing seemed amiss.
It started off sweetly with a hug and a kiss.
Then the stench of their diapers filled me with dread,
And I yearned to just slither back into my bed.

But I pulled out the wet wipes to fulfill my duty—
Gasped one last fresh breath, and then wiped me some booty.
The thanks I received? Why, a kick in the face!
So now blood and poop had splattered the place.

But I kept my composure and moved on to the kitchen,
Thinking that they’d eat nicely, 'cause my cookin' is b*****n’!
The breakfast was crafted with great love and care—
Lump-free cream of wheat, and thoroughly-peeled pear.

When I said it was ready, each boy ran to his seat.
Then their fists banged the table, to the chorus of “EAT!”
And what, with my mothering ears, did I hear?
Why, the stir of rebellion; it filled me with fear.

“How do we ask?” I said with a frown.
And they proceeded to flip the table upside-down.
“Boys!” I then scolded, “No need to be rude!”
But I righted the table and gave them their food.

And where did it end up? Why, of course, on the floor.
But that didn't stop them from screaming for “MORE!”:

        More pancake! More fruit! More milk and more candy!
        They were asking for things I didn't even have handy.
        “No more!” I responded. My temper was rising.
        (Even though this behavior was nothing surprising.)

So back to the toy room they ran in a flash.
I was sweeping up food when I heard a loud crash:
Their toy kitchen knocked over, the oven door snapped,
And one tiny toddler splayed underneath, trapped.

I freed the poor child with a pull of his leg,
And saw, on his head, a giant goose egg.
Then, “Books! Books!” Oh the shrieking! Like monkeys in cages!
So I grabbed Pete the Cat, and they ripped out three pages.

“Color!” they shouted, poor Pete now in scraps.
So I grabbed the Crayolas and tried not to collapse.
I left to fetch paper (a rookie mistake)
’Cause the best thing about crayons? “Hey, Mama, they break!”

I returned to find crayon shards strewn in the hall,
And an abstract wax mural spanned ’cross the wall.
“We're done with the crayons. How ‘bout toy cars instead?”
And in two seconds time, a Hot Wheels hit my head.

“Let’s put on our shoes and go for a walk!”
But on our way out, they passed by the chalk.
So out to our patio, we all went to draw;
All was fine…’til the chalk became something to gnaw.

So with powder-caked teeth, they marched back through the door,
And they left muddy footprints on the just-vacuumed floor.
Exhausted, and dirty, coughing up chalky phlegm,
I looked at the clock, and it said ten .  .  .  A.M.

My resolve was dissolving, my final straw drawn,
When the TV called to me; so I put the thing on.
“How ’bout a movie? Maybe make popcorn later?”
But one wanted “Elmo”; the other one, “Mater.”

They finally settled for ol' Mickey Mouse,
And I had a rare moment of peace in the house.
In this odd bout of quiet, I attempted to nap.
But with lips like a fishy, one hopped in my lap.

He wanted a kiss? Surely that couldn't go south.
So I puckered my lips, and he sneezed in my mouth.
I gave a small laugh as I spit out the snot,
Because life’s never boring when you live with a tot (or two!).

Dedicated to my own beloved goobers.
I wouldn't change a second  <3

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Great “Mom” Divide (Let’s Just Close It Already, Eh?)

I’ve perused my fair share of Mommy Blogs, witnessed the Facebook debates, and read a good number of Huffington Post articles alluding to The Great Mom Divide: moms, dads, and non-parentals alike, vehemently arguing the pros and cons associated with being either a “Stay-at-Home Mom” or a “Working Mom” (I have actually paused in my typing to make air quotes as I mumble those terms—more on that later). I know this subject has been beaten to death more than Lord Voldemort (the dude had to die SEVEN times), so I don’t want to simply sit here and reiterate the usual “can’t-we-all-just-get-along” spiel. Nor do I want to go the overly dramatic, “Oh, for Heaven’s sake, think of the children!” route.

The Simpsons already have that one covered.

I’m sure (read: hope) most parents already appreciate how important it is that we all respect each other, and that we can’t know what another mom’s life is like until we've taken a walk in her shoes, or—in my case—super comfy house slippers (that’s right, I embrace the stereotype). But! Even though there are probably millions of articles already out there, I feel that, as a proud, happy, blessed, and still often-frustrated SAHM blogger, it is kind of my duty to share some of my own brief thoughts on the topic.

Wait, did you say brief? So now you wanna revive The Great Underwear Debate of the 90’s, too? 
You must thrive on stirring up controversy.

Here’s the thing. We are all moms. We are all “Working Moms,” because, as I’m sure any mom can attest, “work” is an inherent part of the job description. We are all “Stay-at-Home Moms,” because, even when we’re elsewhere—at work; in meetings; in our own heads, playing out badass scenarios in which we must protect our offspring from some evil Sith Lord by engaging him in a heated lightsaber duel (surely that’s not just me)—a part of us is at “home” with our children. Pieces of us have found permanent residence in the hearts of our kids: pieces of our own hearts, pieces of our consciences, literally pieces of our DNA. We live in our children, and they in us (for literal proof, check this out; so cool!). They are our “home.” I mean, E.E. Cummings seemed to get it, and that was all the way back in 1952:

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling).

Admittedly, I’m fairly certain he was writing about a lover, not a child, but the underlying sentiment definitely applies to motherhood as well. Love is love; it’s universal, and it’s binding. And it’s what turns “mothers” into “Moms,” whether they spend the majority of their time physically at home, in an office, on the road, cruising the aisles of Target, or honing their lightsaber skills (again, not just me, right?).

I don't understand the purpose of continually arguing who "has it harder." Parenting is not a contest, and it's not a segue to self-perceived martyrdom (mamadom?). At least, it shouldn't be. The more we talk about “the struggles of a Stay-at-Home Mom” and “the struggles of a Working Mom,” we are feeding the fire (when most of us should be feeding our kids, or—more likely—ourselves, since we tend to put our kids’ needs before ours). How about “the struggles of being a Mom,” no further clarification needed? Because it isn’t needed. Being a Mom is hard. Being a Dad is hard.  Raising. A. Child. Is. Hard. Parenting comes with its own set of doubts, guilt, and second-guesses.  Let’s not add more by engaging in the shame game with each other. You shouldn’t need validation from random strangers and internet articles when you know in your heart that what you’re doing is the best thing for your family. Is tearing other Moms down really the sort of example we want to set for our kids?

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that MOM is an acronym for Mind Over Matter. For starters, if you’re going to squeeze another human being out of your hoo-ha, or have it (or them) cut out of you (talking from personal experience here), you’ve got to be pretty mentally tough. But even beyond enduring the physical requirements, motherhood requires a certain state of mind. Being a MOM is an attitude, a belief that your children are precious (not in the creepy Gollum way), and that you’ll do whatever is necessary in order to protect them (like fighting off malevolent Sith Lords). So let’s not allow one another’s financial circumstances, opinions, silly labels, or “job” descriptions make us forget what our primary career is: Loving our children. 

Don’t mess with my kid. Or insult my mothering.


[All videos courtesy of youtube.com]

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

BeTWIN You and Me

You know, I've noticed that when strangers see that I have twins, their reactions place them in one of two factions:

1.) The "OMG! Twins?!" group, or
2.) The "OMG! Twins?!" group.

I know what you're probably thinking...Ummm, is this lady under the delusion that everything comes in doubles just because her kids did? Aren't those, like, the same thing? (I apologize, dear reader, for the unfounded assumption that you would use such mundane fillers as "ummm" and "like"...this is all for literary effect.)

Allow me to clarify:

1.) The "OMG! Twins?!" group:

[giphy.com]

2.) The "OMG! Twins?!" group:

[giphy.com]
[tumblr.com]

I take it no further differentiation is needed. (Side self-reflection: Is it sad that I can relate almost all things in life to some aspect of Harry Potter? Sometimes a girl just wants a little magic in her life. And Chocolate Frogs. And maybe a pint of Butterbeer on the particularly rough days.)

More often than not, people fall into the latter group, and I really have a difficult time understanding why. While I can appreciate the gut-reaction of “That must be a lot of work,” I feel like it’s also pretty obvious that the “extra work” yields incalculable dividends. On the rare occasion I do encounter someone whose reaction is more along the lines of, "What a blessing," I get so excited that I tend to scare him or her away with my over-emphatic, "I KNOW, RIGHT?!" response. It probably comes off a tad too self-congratulatory, even though that’s not my intention. I simply find it refreshing to meet someone else who realizes how AWESOME being the Queen of Twinsylvania is. Usually, I end up having to enlighten naysayers at the playground, grocery store, and even—at times—church (which especially baffles me, considering Jesus was all, "Let the children come to me!") about the joys of raising twin toddlers. It’s as though people assume the two of them are in a constant state of criminal collaboration, and one day I’ll find myself bailing them out of jail for car theft or something…

But, bro, we agreed it was my turn to hot-wire the car!

All joking aside, to put it in terms these Doubting Thomases (keeping with the holy theme here) might understand, having twin boys is, like, umm, The Greatest Thing Since Divinely Multiplied Bread (Jesus loved children and carbs, truly a man after my own heart). But for those skeptics out there who still require rhetorical convincing, I present to you a CliffNoted list of why being the mother of twins is The Best Career in the World (attempting to type the full version would likely result in this blessed Twin-Mama developing carpal tunnel syndrome). These are in no particular order:

* The boys’ interactions with one another breed so many proud Mama moments. Yes, they fight at times, like any other siblings, but I also witness them practice compassion toward one another on a semi-regular basis. They inadvertently teach each other the value of benevolence, and the importance of making others happy. Sometimes it’s sharing a precious “M” (M&M) with the other; sometimes it’s one of them handing his brother a favorite stuffed animal or blankie when he looks sad. I love seeing them intuitively perform these little acts of kindness without being goaded into it, because it is unadulterated, innocent altruism in its purest (and most adorable) form; they have no ulterior motive and expect nothing in return but the gratification that comes from making someone smile when he's "zah" (sad). They can’t articulate their feelings verbally all that well yet, so they use their actions. And it seriously makes me feel like the Grinch on Christmas morning:

Now if only my boobs would follow suit.
[giphy.com]

* They make each other laugh. All the time. And when they really get one another other going, it’s infectious. There’s just no better sound in the world. If I could get it on my iPod and listen to it on repeat while I run, I bet my race times would drop significantly. In fact, it does give me a burst of energy when I’m pushing them in the stroller on one of our runs together. They think the wind is hilarious. Well, to be honest, I’m not sure if it’s the wind, or the labored breathing and comical grunts escaping my mouth as I run into it. Oliver finds this especially amusing, and has been known to mimic the cartoonish sounds I make; he may be the outwardly sweet and quiet twin, but he has a slightly sadistic side when it comes to Mama’s workouts. As soon as Oliver starts laughing, Trystan joins in, and I’m running to a harmonious blend of toddler giggles. Apparently their twin bond begets a propensity for inside jokes, because they find each other hilarious even when I have no idea what’s going on.


Three words: Coordinating. Halloween. Costumes. 

We love being Mama's personal Barbie dolls!

* Sometimes this happens. In real life. Often unintentionally:

[photobucket.com]

It is freaking hilarious right now (even though poor Ollie doesn't stand a chance against Trystan's behemoth skull), and has the potential to develop into a special bonding ritual when they're older:

Nothing better than horsin' around with your best bro!
[giphy.com]

* Yes, we have double the tantrums, double the dirty diapers, double the fishy cracker bill (okay, triple…I'm rather partial to the Vanilla Cupcake ones), and double the tears of frustration. But we also have double the tears of joy. Double the hugs, double the kisses, and double the laughs. We had double the excitement of a first step. Double the pride of a first word. And when one of them finally strung together the phrase, “I love you,” we got to hear it echoed back in another—separate, but just as heartwarming—voice, shortly after. And our hearts doubled in size.

* Continuing in that vein, we’ll have double the dough should Wrigley’s ever decide to do a modern remake of one of these babies:

And if they turn us away, we'll sue for unlawful twin discrimination against FRATERNALS.
[youtube.com]

* I am in way better shape than I'd be if I'd only birthed one little goober. When we go out for a run, I have to push two toddlers in Robert (what we've christened our trusty BOB Duallie running stroller). It’s twice the challenge. And an awesome arm workout. My pull-ups have improved exponentially. It’s basic physics, dude: F = ma. Throw in some wind resistance or hills, and I’m basically this guy, in a running skirt:

Does this count toward my frequent flier miles?
[youtube.com]

* It is pretty dang awesome when we’re under a blanket reading together, and they snuggle up on either side of me to make a Mama Sandwich. I feel like the cream of an Oreo: sickeningly sweet, and loved by everyone. Every mom deserves to be the cream of an Oreo every once in a while.

* And speaking of being in the middle of things: Even when they’re fighting over my attention, I can’t help but feel the love. Do I like that they're fighting? No. Do I kind of revel in the fact that it makes me feel as popularly coveted as The Bachelor with a bouquet of roses? Uh, yeah. Kinda.

Each of my boys has a built-in best friend. And I have two.

* Double tax credit. Had to say it.

* I’ll let you in on a little secret: When I initially found out I was carrying twins, it kind of felt like triplets—Baby A, Baby B, and the irrational fear that I would unwillingly love one of my children more than the other. I think, throughout the pregnancy, that fear put more pressure on me than Trystan’s abnormally large cranium did on my bladder. But I love both my boys, in totally equal amounts, yet totally different ways. I love how strikingly individual they are, and how they love me in their own unique ways. My fears throughout the pregnancy proved to be unfounded, as I’ve since discovered first-hand that the experience of mothering twins rests on a mathematical paradox:

Your attention may be divided, but your love is multiplied.

 
[tumblr.com]

Well, Voldy, actually, I have two things:

OMG! Twins!! <3
Okay, three, if you count the chocolate.